Friday, October 16, 2009

So, why did the print Times ignore the eminent domain hearing?

From the lead of the New York Times's CityRoom blog post Wednesday on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain oral argument:
The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn faced a landmark legal test on Wednesday, as New York’s highest court heard arguments in a case with major implications for economic development across the state.

(Emphases added)

You'd think that would be enough to merit print coverage.

It didn't, even though, as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn points out, the Times has covered in print other arguably no more important Court of Appeals arguments.

City Room references

Shouldn't it have merited at least a paragraph in the City Room column, which sends print readers to the blog? After all, the lawsuit filed by DDDB and others against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority did get a paragraph in the column in Wednesday's paper.

And what was in Thursday's City Room column?
  • An excerpt from the regular feature in which interesting people--in this case, a jazz drummer--takes questions from readers: six paragraphs.
  • The screening of a 25-year old film about the Brooklyn badlands: four paragraphs.
  • The hanging of former Gov. George Pataki's portrait in the State Capitol: two paragraphs.
News judgment

I won't go as far as DDDB in implying that the Times downplayed the coverage based on the parent New York Times Company's reliance, along with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, on eminent domain to build the new Times Tower.

But it's sure suspicious.

Consider that the City Room post, by former Brooklyn reporter Nicholas Confessore, focused on tough questioning of the lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation and could have been balanced by some references to the skepticism the judges showed toward the attorney for the nine plaintiffs.

(Would you believe it: a New York Times article slightly unbalanced in favor of Atlantic Yards opponents?)

Interference, or incompetence?

Surely Forest City Ratner wasn't pleased by the coverage. Did someone call the publisher's office at the Times? I don't know. Does the publisher intervene in news coverage? That is not supposed to be happen.

If not, then the only explanation is incompetence. Was a print article about a real estate fraud in Harlem, however interesting, more important than the "landmark legal test"?

That's not a tough call, but here's an easier one: Are two paragraphs about Pataki's portrait more important than even a mention of this case?

Incompetence is no defense. There are lots of journalists looking for work these days.

2 comments:

  1. Don't blame the journalists, the journalist did his job. Blame the editors.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Public trust in the press has been falling through the basement floor for more than 20 years, as acknowledged by Pew Research surveys.

    The collapse in trust happens when an industry substitutes platitudes for what were once its principles. It is a broken brand promise; and that is why citizens are leaving the dogmatic Church of Journalism.

    News is too important to be left solely to journalists. Hence the rise in the citizen journalism and the blogosphere.

    On the issue of eminent domain, scores of blogs have emerged to tell the story of property rights. For example, for info, check this one: http://www.spectraenergywatch.com/blog/?p=407

    ReplyDelete